Monday, March 31, 2008

Signs of spring.

Our rhubarb patch is showing signs of life...

and we'll have daffodils soon.

Spring fever is setting in.


The pony took an unauthorized run outside of the pasture the other night around dusk. She ran across our back yard and - literally - clotheslined herself across her chest on the little clothesline my dad made for my daughter. Luckily she wasn't hurt, not even a bit. I need to fix the clothesline before clothes-hanging weather kicks in.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The goats.

As you know, I've got four goats, all LaMancha.

This is Tamari, a four year old on her third pregnancy. Last year I got fantastic tasting milk in great quantity. She had twins - the male is owned by a friend of mine but the female, unfortunately, had to be culled due to behavior issues. I found out later that Tamari's sister's twin girls both had to be culled from their herd for the same reason. I'm going to try Imprint Training with these babies and hope that that makes a difference. She's such a wonderful milk goat that I'd like to keep a female baby from her - as if I need any more goats.

Here are the other three. The one in front, with brown spots, is Physion. She's due around the first of April. Celtic Satin, the black one, is due two weeks later.

The sheep.

The sheep are my husband's project. He has Targhee and Suffolk ewes and a big 'ole Suffolk ram. He's tried several different breeds, his favorite so far being the Dorper, and will probably end up mixing several breeds to get his desired flock.

Most of the Suffolk ewes have already lambed. Since Suffolk sheep are the big 4H sheep around here, you time their lambing to occur early in the year to make them the right size at the right time for showing. Completely ridiculous, if you ask me, to subvert nature and have babies born in the coldest time of the year to fit a human time scale based on competition.

So the Suffolk babies are bigger babies now and are frolicking around our property. We have goat fence around the pastures, but the babies can get out through the cattle-panel type gates. We don't worry too much about it since we live in the middle of nowhere, I just keep an eye on one of the neighbors who has dogs. These are our renegades. There are now about 15 of these black lambs that run around all day long.

Our Targhee are only just now having their babies, and they're the cutest dang things you'll ever see - at least until my goats start having their babies.

I must have taken this picture at feeding time.

Here is our "left to give birth" group. Ains and I were out walking around the pasture and there were two sheep - the Targhee - that felt that if we got within 100 yards they had to run away. Sheep being sheep, the rest of the ewes (and those three young goats) would follow them at a dead run. All of them pregnant. I tried to stay far enough away and show by my body language that I was no threat, but those two Targhee were determined to be scared. By the third pass, the Suffolk closest to giving birth gave up on them and decided to follow us (and my Tamari goat) instead of running away. By the fourth pass, my goats were all falling in with us instead of the sheep. There was no fifth pass. Apparently even skittish sheep finally accept when their pregnant bodies don't want to run anymore. By the way, on the left hand side of that picture is our ram.

We only have one bum lamb right now, from a group of triplets. It's a Targhee baby and Hannah likes helping feed him.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

You wouldn't know it,

but this is a helluva mouser. Best mouser we've got. Just not in the dress.

A little surrey.

Well maybe not quite so fancy. Definitely no fringe.

My husband's been looking at getting a cart for our pony to pull around. This is his top choice right now. Pretty, isn't it?

This one's also nice. It's smaller than it looks - it only holds three people. It is, after all, for a pony, not a horse. It looks kind of like a small hay-wagon to me. A fun little cart for kids to ride in.

We're not going to talk about the fact that our pony still has to be trained to pull a cart...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My 10 cent books.

I just got two books for ten cents. Amazon sent me a customer loyalty gift card for $25. If you order $25 worth of books on their site you get free shipping. The total on my two books was $25.10. So with free shipping I paid ten cents for two books. Woot! Amazon hates customers like me.

Want to know which books I got?

- Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game. I've realized that it is too dang expensive to have my goats harvested where we get our other livestock harvested. You have to pay a kill fee and then pay them per pound of meat. I have my goats harvested pretty young for a variety of reasons, so the kill fee is not spread out over a lot of meat. I think my last goat cost me almost $100 to have harvested. That's expensive chevon. So I may try to harvest my own this year. Not looking forward to it at all.

- The Whole Beast. Nose to Tail Eating. By Fergus Henderson. You wouldn't believe this cookbook. He covers everything from stock making to bone marrow on toast to lamb's brains. This book came very, very highly recommended from very diverse people. Homesteaders, professional food blogs, hoity toity food and restaurant reviewers, everybody loves this guy's food and recommends this book highly. Here are some of his recipes...

- Pea and Pig's Ear Soup
- Warm Pig's Head (serious as a heart attack - it's a pig's head)
- Rolled Pig's Spleen
- Duck Hearts on Toast
- Lamb's Brain Terrine
- Crispy Pig's Tails
- Lamb's Kidneys in their Suet

You know, of course, that I picked out the most shocking recipes to list for you. There are probably a good hundred recipes in this book.

What I loved most about this book was the language this chef uses. About adding hot soup to seasonings he says "Pour the hot soup over these, give them a few moments to get to know each other." In an ingredient list he asks for "6 tomatoes, the happiest you can find". At the end of a recipe for Deep-Fried Lamb's Brains he says "The result is like biting through crunch into a rich cloud." Fer hell's sake, he can even make brains sound like they're worth trying once!

There's a recipe for making your own celery salt that I'm dying to try. I already made the pork stock and it was the best stock I've made. It's actually the only animal stock I've made that has worked as well as I'd like - it was really good.

I've updated my "Books I'm reading" list on the right of the blog if you want to check out the books on Amazon. I've read through the whole cookbook and have skimmed through the butchering book enough to know that I still am not excited about doing it. Ugh.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lambing is plugging along.

Triplets and twins yesterday. Two sets of twins today. We now have a more than 100% lamb crop with ewes that have yet to lamb. Matt is pleased. Lambing is much more smooth this year than it was last year - and much less muddy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Grayson Randall

Finally, baby has a name. It was the first name that we were stuck on for awhile.

Randall comes from my mother's father. He was an amazing grandfather and father - and a heckuva dairy farmer and horseman. It's a strong name from a strong man. I smile when I think of my grandfather. What better testimony of a man's life than that? So I gave my son his name.

And there you are. Finally.

Apparently my lap is big enough for three. Whodathunk?

Thaw, Rain, Mud

So the weather's warming up, the rain is moving in, and the mud is taking over.

Hannah and I went out to measure the garden area. It's the same garden area as I used last year, but a hot chocolate accident ruined all of my notes from last year.

So we got dressed in warm clothes and trudged through the garden mud to get the garden dimensions.

Hannah tried to walk across the garden. Mud made out of clay soil is very sticky. It'll suck you right in - especially if you're a four year old. I had to rescue her.

The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. - Thomas Moore

It's almost warm enough to start hanging laundry again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My owl has a boyfriend.

But when I did research, it appears that it may be her *husband*. Whodathunk? Apparently most Great Horned Owls mate for life. We've seen him, but we haven't been able to get a picture of them together - they sit too far away from each other for a family picture.

I was looking for information on *how* owls mate. My husband swears they mate mid-flight. He says that either these owls were mating or having a very intense tussle in the air. I could find no information on whether owls mate in the air or not, but I did find out that they usually have laid their eggs by now, so it was probably a tussle - or completely unnecessary love-making - that my husband saw.

I also found that "They eat rodents, hares, squirrels, skunks, various birds such as geese, grouse, ducks and pigeons." I'd add cats to that list. Not *our* cats who are apparently too smart for that (you should hear my sister's story about watching our momma cat train her baby not to come out of hiding once the sun went down), but the neighbor's cats are not so used to living around birds big enough to hunt them instead of the other way around. In fact, our cats are smart enough to trick the other cats into being hunted - I watched our male cat chase a neighboring tom hell-bent for leather across our yard and under the trees where our owls lived toward the neighboring farmer's open fields. As soon as our male got under the trees he stopped dead in his tracks and let the tom run out into the fields by himself. Since it was dusk, the owl was ready to hunt and was not adverse to cat. I've never seen a hunting bird so close. That cat didn't stand a chance and I have a new appreciation for just how big those birds are.

I think our owl's babies are hatched. She lives in the trees on our front lawn and we can hear her hooting all day on overcast days. She's also hunting in the daytime - not just at night - so it seems that she's feeding more than one beak. She hides well, even with the hoots we can't see her. We probably won't see these babies until they're ready to fly.


From my unschooling blog because it's occupying my mind lately.

So I've been gone for a week and all I want to blog about is what's going on in the world.

My family is safe, healthy and happy. My little baby is sleepily waking up to this world. Nursing, sleeping, peeing, cuddling, and starting the cycle over. Two weeks in this world, knowing nothing but love.

His older sisters are doing well. Neither is showing any jealousy, both are adapting well to Momma's attention being elsewhere sometimes, and both are content. Hannah's got her own, new "big bed" that she refuses to use but is awfully proud of. Ainsley is in love with Hannah's big bed and starts her sleep there every night.

My overhauling of my recipe mess right before the baby's birth was a success and it's easier for me to plan meals now. My plant starts are doing well (minus the *#*&$#$ onions and leeks) and it looks like if all goes well, my garden will provide healthy, inexpensive food this year.

I have a craft room that I share with my daughters. I have shelves full of yarn and fabric. I have patterns and a sewing machine and the financial ability to foster these hobbies.

With all of these good things, after watching Winter Soldier testimonies, after hearing Obama's race speech, after watching Tibet get smacked behind closed doors (though we can hear, even if we ignore it, from the front lawn), all I can think is "How lucky am I?" How lucky to be white. How lucky to be American. How lucky to not be in a country whose sovereignty is recognized.

How lucky to not be killed walking home with groceries because my bag of vegetables looks like it could be dangerous. How lucky to not be fearful of those occupying forces who are supposed to be protecting me. How lucky that I will not likely see my children blown away or wonder how I will feed them.

If there is any doubt in your mind that war is horrible, that horrible things are happening to Iraqi civilians by *our* hands, watch the testimonies of the Winter Soldiers. Watch them anyway. Just not with your young children around. Winter Soldier was a program put on over the weekend that had panels of returned US soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan talking about what they went through in their deployment and what they're going through now that they're home. Watching these soldiers talk about what they went through, what they witnessed, what they did, while in Iraq and Afghanistan is eye-opening. And these soldiers deserve to be watched, to be listened to.

It is telling that not a single member of the corporate media mentioned this gathering or covered it. It took a lot of courage for these soldiers to come forward. Listen to them. We have a lot of power today that we didn't have ten years ago. Blogging about this, emailing about it, visiting the websites to let them know you hear them - we can do this now. We can bypass the mainstream media and hear what they mean for us not to hear. We can bypass news about Paris's vajayjay and Britney's guest appearance on a tv show. We can ignore the latest "Iraqis are hopeful because of US occupation" headlines and find out, from the troops who were there, how the Iraqis really feel. Do this. For the Iraqis and for our soldiers.

You can watch excerpts at Democracy Now, you can read transcripts and listen to audio at The War Comes Home, or you can watch the testimony at the home page for Winter Soldier, Iraq Veterans Against the War. While frustrating, it's exciting that the IVAW page has been frequently down the last few days because of overwhelming demand on their server from people wanting to watch the testimonies. I've only been able to watch one testimony every few hours due to this - and I couldn't be happier. That the system is clogged with people wanting to hear the truth is not a bad thing. There is hope. This is what is on my mind today.

About Obama and Tibet?

Obama's "race" speech. Call it dodging-the-Wright-bullet, hyperbole, or "just another political speech" if you want. As an independent, my vote is his now. I didn't appreciate his "Israel" line and I didn't appreciate that there was no positive mention of Muslims among all his talk of "Black, white, Hispanic, Native Americans" and "preachers, pastors, and rabbis", but overall, that speech was fantastic.

Watch the full speech here. Our country has hope with a man like this at its helm. And if the rumors are true, that he wrote that speech himself, we may just have as our next president a man who can string three words together without looking like a moron.

And Tibet...

They're finally fighting physically for their independence. Embarrassing for China, this happening right before their Olympics. So they're cracking down, shutting down any media they can that shows what is happening inside Tibet, and from all reports, what's happening there is not pretty. Like I said earlier, it's like the neighbor who beats their kids behind closed doors. You can't see it, but you can hear it. You know it's happening. Right now we, the neighbors, are covering our ears and trying not to hear the cries of the people who want their country back - this is no civil war. Right now the International Olympic Committee should be threatening to pull the Olympics, even if it means having no Olympics this year. Right now all countries who would be competing should be threatening to boycott Beijing's Olympics. Instead we're saying "please show some restraint". In other words, don't hit them where we can see the bruises and all will be fine.

I'm so grateful that I can cuddle my two-week old, smell his newborn baby smell, and know that I have the luxury of not wondering if any of us will be alive and free tomorrow. And, thanks to a well-written (even if politically motivated) speech, feeling that there is hope for our country in the future.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A moment of silence.

Cabbages = -3
Broccoli = -1

Toddler learning about tiny plants, dirt, and how funny-looking Mommy is when she sees you learning such things = Priceless.

Dyson = priceless. Seriously.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Starting plants.

Last Sunday morning, Hannah and I started the first plants on my seed-starting set-up.

First we mixed up the soil. My husband had forgotten to bring home some aged compost, so we mixed potting soil and perlite 3-1. That was fun for Hannah and Ainsley enjoyed playing in it also. Even mixing it on a tablecloth, my husband was having a hard time with the potential mess. And we haven't even gotten the poultry yet - I wonder if he'll survive me.

For the onions and leeks, we filled the trays with the soil mixture and planted directly in that.

For the cabbages and broccoli we filled my newspaper cups with some spaghnum moss on the bottom and then the soil mixture. I'm trying out a spring planting of cabbages and broccoli. I'll do a planting for a fall crop also. I enjoyed making saurkraut last year and I'm really looking forward to making it with homegrown cabbage this year.

I brought in all of the lights and Hannah dusted them off for me. (Then she dusted off everything else in the house that she thought needed dusting, including a very annoyed little sister.)

This is what it looked like when we got done. The blanket was to stop a draft coming from our fireplace fan. The trays are on a heating mat that I have to keep turning on and off since it heats the trays up about ten degrees too hot if left on.

This past week we added lights to the second shelf and moved down the sprouted plants. On the top shelf now is a tray of cauliflower and some of Hannah's Purple Coneflower plants.

I don't have anything scheduled to start this week, so we'll probably start another tray with more of Hannah's flowers in it. She's excited about her own garden, so I want to keep that going.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A bit more about the birth.

Thank you for the lovely comments! Some have asked for some more birth detail, so here it is.

After ten months (43 weeks) of a very healthy pregnancy, baby and body finally decided it was time. The length didn't surprise me - I cook babies a long, long time. Labor started at around 4 pm, contractions eight minutes apart. My husband called the midwife and then we went to the store to walk and get groceries, hoping to keep the contractions steady and strong.

When we got back, the midwife and her assistant were there. I wanted to stay busy, to help labor seem shorter, so I made a goat meat stew (from a new recipe, using coconut milk - it was very, very good) for after the birth, chocolate chip cookies, and rolls. The distraction worked because it was 10:30 before I realized it. My younger daughter had gone to bed and my older daughter, though she wanted to be there for the birth, was fading fast. After telling my contractions to "stop it. Stop hurting my mother.", and having it explained to her that the contractions, while uncomfortable, were a good thing, she curled up with my husband and went to sleep. Reason #413 why homebirth is wonderful.

At 10:30 my water broke and I expected to give birth within the next 30 minutes - that's how it had been with my two girls. I wish I'd known it would be different this time. An hour later I had to admit that I was nowhere near giving birth yet, so I'd better stop thinking "this one could be it" and just start acting as if the pushing was hours away and rolling with the contractions that were getting me there.

At 1:38 am on Monday morning, I felt the urge to push and at 1:40 am, he was here. There was no slowing him down once he was ready. The movement from birth to my chest was so fluid, so natural. It was an amazing feeling. My first birth, at the hospital, had me reaching for my baby before they handed her to me. My second birth, at home, had my husband holding her first. This one was different, and it was wonderful.

I'm trying to think of what is "best" about a homebirth.

Is it the calm knowledge that you won't have to submit to hospital policies like IVs, baby monitors, and labor on a bed? These things may not be common everywhere, but in my tiny, podunk hospital, they're mandatory.

Is it being able to wear what you want and know that, unlike one of my sister in laws, you don't have to change into a hospital gown with "Central Laundry" printed on the front of it?

Is it being able to labor in the comfort of familiar surroundings, wandering from room to room, relaxing in your own shower, cuddling with your children, leaning on your husband, or locking yourself away from everybody when that feels necessary?

Is it not having to refuse medication over and over, having that eat into your knowledge that you are strong and capable and able to do this thing that, from birth, your culture has told you you are not able to do?

Is it not having to ask permission to hold your baby, not having to hand the baby over for weighing and measuring before you're ready, not having to say goodbye as your baby is taken to the nursery for "standard treatments"?

Is it moving from the birthing place to your comfy recliner and nuzzling your newborn baby as you both doze and he tries nursing and figures out this new way of eating for the first time?

Is it watching your daughters' faces as they wake up and see a newborn baby that wasn't there when they went to sleep? Watch their little faces as they put it all together and realize that this is real. And not have to say goodbye when visiting hours are over.

Is it realizing a day and a half after birth that had you given birth in the hospital, you would just now be getting "permission" to leave and come home. Instead, you've been home and comfortable since the birth.

There is nothing "best" about a homebirth. A homebirth makes a birth "simply" a part of life. It doesn't break it apart from life and make it a medical event. It honors it as a natural, albeit glorious, event. I know how very lucky I am to have had low-risk pregnancies that have allowed me to have this experience, that have allowed me this way of welcoming new life into our family.

Was this too much? lol - I hope not. Back to regular, not so sappy blogging now.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I'm sorry it's been so long between posts. We've been busy here starting seeds, planning out the garden, lambing, watching our owls, chasing away randy neighbor dogs that want to flirt with my husband's dog, going to the auction, and having a baby.

Here's our newest addition. He joined our family early Monday morning, and in that strange, unexplainable but undeniable way, he already fits like he's always been here.

My husband got me this hammock for my birthday so that I can work in the garden while my baby is nearby and safe out of my daughters' reach. We have a lovely maple tree right outside of the garden. I'm hoping it works as well as I imagine it will.